“Let me start this review by saying that I was super excited to read this book. I love Steam Punk, and I could not wait to see what kind of world McQuerry had created. I adored the world, and the characters were well-developed. However, the writing really threw me. I did not like how it switched from 1st person POV to 3rd person limited POV randomly throughout the book. It really took me out of the story and made it hard to focus. The fact that this happened when the character was remaining the same made the whole thing even more pointless. Honestly, it seems like some weird plot device just to make a book stand out. I didn't like it at all. Also, the pacing was slow as molasses. I had to put this book back several times and come back to it in order to finish it. If you enjoy a lot of world building and excruciatingly long descriptions, then this book is for you.
Lena was an interesting character. She didn't feel like she felt in anywhere, and because of that, she was easy to relate to and sympathize with. She made some terribly stupid decisions and wasn't the strongest of characters in some respects (she always wanted Jimson to "save" her, for example), but the flaws simply made her realistic. I loved Jimson. He had a great energy about him, and he was just a really terrific character. I know this was Lena's story, but I wish that if McQuerry had insisted on switching POVs that she'd switched between Lena and Jimson. That would have been extremely entertaining. I also loved Mr. Beasley. He was the sweetest man!
The plot itself was interesting, but not very suspenseful. There were some mysterious parts, but overall, there just wasn't any action or suspense to speak of. The concept kept me reading, and because of the lengthy descriptions, I could most certainly picture the world that McQuerry has created. This was an incredibly slow read for me, though. Also, with all of the descriptions, I felt like we should have known more what a Peculiar was. We learned about a couple of types of Peculiars, but didn't learn many details about them at all.
Overall, I'd recommend this book to those of you who like a lot of world-building and descriptions. Also, if POV switching doesn't bother you, then this book may be for you. It's a different concept, and it definitely stands out from most Steam Punk and YA novels today. If you're looking for something different, then give this book a try. ”
“3.0 out of 5 stars Two and a half stars: A steampunk that explores the long standing nature vs. nurture debate.
Lena is turning eighteen. For her birthday she receives a letter, some money and a deed to a mine in Scree from her missing father. Lena feels a deep, restless stirring inside. Adventure calls to her, but proper girls aren't supposed to feel adventurous. Is this unnatural feeling due to her goblin genes that she inherited from her absentee father? Her entire life, Lena has been forced to hide her spindly, spidery hands and her abnormally large feet. A birth defect that is a sign of her goblin genes, but what does it mean to be a goblin? A goblin is a person with unusual features who is thought to be soulless and a social miscreant, bent on evil outcomes. Lena has worried endlessly that she is a goblin without a soul who will meet a bad ending. Unable to deny the call any longer, Lena packs her bags and sets off to Scree, the land of the Peculiars in search of her long lost father and hopefully some answers. Is Lena indeed a goblin destined for a bad ending?
What I Liked:
*At the heart of the story lies the nature vs. nurture debate. Are we destined to greatness or failure by the very coding in our DNA or is our fate decided by the circumstances of our environment? Can a child born of parents with a dark past overcome his or her genetic programming? A tricky question that has been debated for centuries. I appreciated the author presenting this question at the center of her story. Focusing on Lena, a girl with good intentions, trying to fend off her goblin genes. This is a coming of age story that tells the tale of a young lady finding her own identity and learning to be comfortable in her own skin. Along the way, her eyes are opened and she sheds some prejudices and sees the world and The Peculiars in a new way.
*I liked that this book focuses on identity and it steers away from the common romance storyline. It is refreshing to find a read without love triangles and cliff hangers. This book presents the whisper of a romance and attraction but it is subtle. A look, a hint, a feeling....no big sparks or insta love situations. Instead it is a slow and steady building that is just beginning to bud by the conclusion.
*I enjoyed meeting The Peculiars, the people born with deformities and abnormal characteristics. Many of these people have been persecuted and forced to live as outcasts because of their conditions. This book is a stark reminder that just because people are different they are not bad, nor do they deserve to be shunned. Thankfully, society has made significant strides in moving beyond appearance prejudices, yet there is more work to be done. Ms. McQuerry with her steampunk tale reminds us to look beyond the outward features and see the person inside.
*I adored the cat, Mrs. Mumbles. She is a fun addition to the story and she left her mark on my heart.
*I enjoyed the descriptions and the use of alliteration in the story. The unique descriptions were really nice.
And The Not So Much:
*While there are some positive highlights to this book, overall I struggled with final rating. This is not a bad book by any means, but one I can't whole heartedly recommend for the reason that it lacked fire and fever. The pacing is incredibly slow and not until the book reaches the three quarters point does it pick up. It was a bit of a struggle to stick with it.
*Lena is a difficult character for me to embrace. On one hand, I felt sympathetic toward her and admired her courage to take on the world despite her flaws. Yet, when she encounters a Peculiar with anomalies, instead of being sympathetic and understanding, she runs away. This upset me because I felt that she of all people should understand what it is like to be different, for everyday she has endured the stares and ridiculous comments regarding her hands and feet. I hoped that she would handle the situation better, but alas she does not. Granted, later on she sees the error of her ways, but it was a troublesome issue for me.
*This book is labeled as a steampunk, but unfortunately, it lacks all the gadgets and gizmos that set a steampunk apart. It is set in the late 1800's in an alternate U.S. history, and it does have a few steampunk elements, but not enough to capture my imagination.
*Finally, this is labeled as a YA title. I think that this book is beyond the YA audience. I can't say I would see the average teenage youth picking this one up and loving it. There is nothing that would appeal to this audience. It features an eighteen year old for all purposes is an adult and acts like one. All the other characters, aside from a teenager who appears toward the end of the book, are adults. The story is beyond the typical YA story line. Now I realize that these are not bad notations, in all honesty I like finding a book that steps out of the typical boundaries, but in the case, the book is so far beyond the norm that I think it would lose its appeal for young adults. There is nothing inappropriate about this book at all, it is a clean read. Don't pick this up looking for a typical/paranormal YA read because it is not what you are expecting.
The Peculiars is a book that failed to excite and engage me. Granted it is a good read but not one I can urge you to rush out and buy. This book has a few flaws and a lagging pace. The one shining element is the featuring of the age old nature vs. nurture debate and the ultimate answer to this question. This is a novel with potential but the spark fizzles and the excitement just isn't there. If you want to read something that follows the nature vs. nurture issue in a steampunk world this book might be right for you.
"She was more than the sum of the crimes of her father."
"He was staring at her black-gloved hands, which hung like two giant spiders by her sides."
"What would it be like to believe in something so strongly that you gave your life to it?"
"And all the while the sea remained her constant companion. It chortled and murmured, beckoning to her as she trudged along."
"But Lena had read enough books to know that adventures could start in the oddest of places."
"Being a quick learner is better than knowing all the answers."
"Don't be overly romantic. You've read too many books. Most marriages are just a business contract anyway. It's for the survival of the species and society."
"Calling him a goblin is just one way of simplifying a man who has made good and bad choices."
"Who can say what demons anyone has to fight unless we're inside the person's skin?"
"Does being the same as everyone else mean being better than other people or does it just make it easier to look down your nose at them?"
"It's not your family who defines you, they're an influence, all right, but they don't have the final say. We answer for that ourselves."”
“Personal observation: the cover artwork of the ARC I read seemed more fitting to this story than the one eventually chosen (shown here).
The Peculiars takes place in an alternate North America in the late 1800s. Lena Mattacascar decides on her 18th birthday to leave her home in search of her father who left when she was only five. He supposedly killed a man years ago and has been running from the law ever since in an inhospitable and barely inhabitable wilderness known as Scree. The region is popular as a hiding place for 'peculiars' --creatures said to have no soul-- because their unusual physical features such as long feet and extra joints in their hands mark them as 'different' from 'normal' folk. These unusual creatures often work as slave labor in the mines of the area. Lena seeks not only to find out the truth about her father, and whether he is in fact a goblin, but about her own ancestry as well. On her journey, she meets Jimson Quiggley, a young man on his way to accept a librarian position with the eccentric Mr. Beasley who lives in Zephyr House, a bizarre construction on a cliff overlooking the sea. She also meets a young federal marshal intent on 'helping' the peculiars, or at least that's what he leads Lena to believe. Taking a job as Jimson's assistant, Lena begins spying on Mr. Beasley, then confides in the marshal that there are strange things going on at Zephyr House.”
“This is a fun book. Totally clean. Lena is shy and naive, self-conscious of how she looks, especially in regards to her hands and feet. Jimson is loyal to Mr. Beasley and enthralled with invention and progress. He doesn't care much for Lena's faith, which adds some interesting discussions here and there. And Mr. Beasley is the enigmatic inventor, who reminded me somewhat of Doc Brown in the Back to the Future movies.
I enjoyed the premise of what makes one human. The Peculiars with their strange deformities are said to be unable to go to heaven by missionaries in the story. The missionaries were written as firm legalists to their beliefs, though one changed her mind in the end. I'll be interested to see where the author takes this subplot.
Lena's search for her father gets derailed by the marshal's quest, but it all comes around in the end. Her confusion about who to trust is likely a relatable experience for a young woman inexperienced with advances from a handsome man. The marshal is sneaky--I didn't trust him. But I could see how Lena might. This is not a fast-paced book, but I was never bored and look forward to the second book in the series. This is a fun, thoughtful, clean read.”
This is very charmingly written, but I was a bit disappointed. Unfortunately, "The Peculiars" isn't unforgettable nor a very thrilling read, but it is a comfortable one. The tone is lovely, as is the use of sensory language, but the rest didn't quite come up to snuff for me. However, I think a lot of readers (especially younger ones) will really enjoy this one.
I wouldn't say this one is quite steampunk, but as many other reviewers have suggested, rather, proto-steampunk - with inventions like the steam-powered autoclave for hospitals just starting to take off, steampunk itself usually takes place when steam has fully replaced electricity in our current universe, thus diverging and becoming an alternate universe with an alternate history. What I also loved were the small touches about where we are in this alternate history - Darwin is just starting to write his scientific papers, we still have gaslamps, and steam power itself is still heavily being researched while fighting big coal and oil (very relevant to today's energy concerns - well done, McQuerry!). The details are minute and well-done, but when you don't have the rest of your story to back it up, well...it doesn't really come together as much of a story but rather a bunch of scenes.
And unfortunately, I came away with that: a bunch of scenes, rather than one cohesive tale. And while those are very charming and eloquently written scenes, I found myself losing interest, fast. The pace was lingering, and I like to linger over things, but it got to the point where it was dragging pretty significantly by the end of the first third of the book. This isn't a good thing - we should, as an audience, be hooked in at this point.
The characters, well...Lena was interestingly sounding far, far younger than her age of 18, and at times sounded far more like a younger teen in terms of her voice, the way she spoke and the way she thought. I found the Marshal wonderfully creepy and great for an antagonist - I had no issues with him. The rest just kind of felt pale and barely filled in, and left me with a lot wanting in the character sphere. They felt barely 2D. I really hate it when that happens, because there's so much potential here.
The world itself was well-constructed, and that's, at the end of the day, what saved the book for me. It's rare to find proto-steampunk now that the genre is having its hayday, a happy thing indeed, but I'd love more proto-steampunk or early-steampunk-set novels. I thought the idea of Scree and a no-man's land/wild west that's set seemingly somewhere in Europe or the UK (though we're given no concrete details about that, I wish we had) was great.
The plot and pacing were just too slow for me. Lena needs to get to Scree, but seems to spend an inordinate amount of time in Knob's Knoster - a ridiculous amount, and there's not much going on there except for a bit of romance and the threats of the antagonist, which should have been pushing her to get more done faster so she could get the hell out of there and to Scree. Again, a lot of wasted potential, and it's frustrating.
But overall? This could have been so much better than it was. The worldbuilding and writing were top-notch, but the rest just needed another draft or two to feel completely full and real. However, because of its simplicity, I think the MG and very young YA audience will enjoy this one because it's an easy read. I was just hoping for something more.
Final verdict? For the more seasoned steampunk or older reader, you may want to skip this one. But this would be a good book to introduce younger audiences to the steampunk/proto-steampunk genre. "The Peculiars" is out through Amulet/ABRAMS on May 1st, 2012 in North America, so be sure to go check it out then.
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)”
“See my review on natashasshelf.blogspot.com.”Natasha H wrote this review Friday, April 27, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I was looking forward to The Peculiars because I enjoy a good steampunk novel. The book begins with Lena, a self-deprecating oddball who has just turned eighteen and inherited money from her absent father. She decides to go into Scree, his home country, to find him and research her roots. The early chapters of the book contain a lot of action as Lena’s journey to Knob Knoster, the nearest border town, doesn’t go as smoothly as planned. It looked like it was going to be an exciting ride, but as soon as Lena got to Knob Knoster the action promptly declined.
The chapter titles kind of threw me off. They were the sort of thing I’d expect to see in Middle Grade fiction, where the chapter title pretty much gives away what’s about to happen in the upcoming chapter. It was the wrong move for this reading level, I think, and the self-spoilers became pretty annoying after a while.
Content wise, The Peculiars is a clean book. No swearing, violence, sex, or criminal behaviour — the things authors can get away with in small doses when the protagonist is eighteen. However, I probably wouldn’t give The Peculiars to a young teen, and I say that primarily because of Lena. I think a character like Lena would only reinforce negative body issues in young women. As a Peculiar, Lena has long narrow feet and abnormally large hands with an extra knuckle in each finger. She spends the entire book fretting over these characteristics, hiding them from view or worrying about what people think of her. Instead of turning her hands into an asset, she moans and complains the whole time. When people make crass remarks or bully her about it, she runs away and cries over her misfortune. Lena finally does stand up for herself at the very end of the book, but by the time that rolls around, readers have absorbed three hundred pages of self-flagellation and shame. I’d rather hand a young teen a book about accepting the things that make us different, owning our unique traits, and standing up for oneself. Young girls already get far too many messages about shame and imperfection in our society.
There is a sexualized undertone in the novel in response to gender roles. Lena is concerned with what everybody thinks of her body, but when it comes to behaviour her focus is on attracting a man. There is subtle commentary about what a woman ‘should’ be:
“Maybe being brave was not highly desireable in women. Normal women would have fled, like Pansy.”
The book is full of remarks on things women “don’t do,” like whistle or enjoy excitement. Granted, the story is set in an era where women’s options were very limited, but modern readers are living in a world of increasing gender equality. No young girl needs to hear a litany on all the things she can’t do just because she’s female. Lena’s character also strongly implies that women need to have a jealous streak and competitive nature when it comes to finding a man. The damsel-in-distress theme is also played upon. During a scene where Lena is getting a justly deserved scolding from another character, Lena wonders why Jimson doesn't come and "save her" from the situation.
It’s not just Lena’s thoughts that are problematic, but her actions. In many ways Lena is the villain in this story, but whenever her actions have a negative outcome, McQuerry glazes over it and Lena is back to being self-centred, frivolous, and accepted by her companions within a few pages. It’s like the reader is supposed to forget that she made huge errors in judgment and risked everyone’s safety.
The Peculiars moves at a slow pace and probably could have been trimmed by ~100 pages. Eventually the characters get to Scree and the adventure mentioned in the flap copy, nearly three quarters of the way into the book. By that point the book felt completely like a Middle Grade novel. I found the action boring. It read almost like Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavour, like the author was throwing out over-the-top “intense” and “harrowing” situations just to motivate the reader, not to move the plot forward. I think in many ways The Peculiars missed its target audience. It’s written like a Middle Grade book, but the protagonist is eighteen (she often acts like she’s twelve, though) and engages in activities that only adults would have access to.
As steampunk novels go, The Peculiars was lacklustre. I wouldn’t recommend it to fans of the genre, and I wouldn’t recommend it to Young Adult fans either (again, because of Lena’s influence).”
The Peculiars definitely lives up to its name, if anything it is certainly peculiar.
Lena has grown up under the scrutinous eye of her grandmother. She is shy, untrusting and a bit jaded with the people in the world who are so quick to judge those who are different. Lena displays characteristics of goblinism — extra knuckles, strange hands and feet, elongated build — and she and her family fear that she could easily become one of these money-hungry, treacherous creatures once she fully matures. It is believed that her father was exactly that sort of creature, and Lena is terrified of falling into the same lifestyle.
After reading a letter from her father that he’d left for her to be read the day she turned eighteen, Lena decides to head Northward to find a rumored land called Scree, where, supposedly, people with similar abnormalities live.
I thought the world was fascinating. Ms. MsQuerry has effortlessly blended American History, Steampunk and her own fantasy world to make it seem completely real. I’d love to physically step into this world, just for a few hours, to actually experience it myself.
Ms. McQuerry has also crafted an engaging story with mostly likable characters. I think my favorite, by far, was the character of Jimson. He’s extremely vivacious and naturally curious. I almost wish he was the main character.
As far as Lena is concerned, I never fully connected with her. I understood her, and at times even agreed with her, I just never felt like I trusted her. Now, don’t get me wrong — I love an untrustworthy narrator. It makes the story so much more interesting, but at some point I have to be able to see behind their reasoning for some of their choices and I just couldn’t do that here. Because of my inability to fully connect with Lena, I’m a little on the fence with this one. I liked it, but I wanted to love it, and I just didn’t.
The book does raise some interesting questions and makes some very valid points, especially about how we treat those we perceive as different, and what that fear can do to a society.
I would definitely recommend checking this one out if you like steampunk. As I said earlier, I thought the world was amazing.”
“Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Rating 3.5 out of 5
The Peculiars is a steampunk adventure starring Lena, a young woman who at her 18 years old, decides to travel to find her father. This is the first time in her life, Lena leaves the comforts of the city, and decides to start a journey, guided by a letter left by her father Saul. This journey begins in a train, where she meets Jimson, a young man who aspires to be the librarian at a private library, owned by Mr. Beasley, an inventor of steam technology.
During the trip, the train was held captive by criminals. After the event, Marshal Thomas Saltre interview people in the train, and knows that Lena is the daughter of Saul Mattacascar, a man preceded by his bad reputation with the law. The Marshal managed to convince Lena to inform him the activities in the home of Mr. Beasly, as well as the people who live and visit the place.
Lena’s journey took her to be part of the life in the Zephyr House, but her adventure will not end there. Lena will undertake a new adventure in her journey towards Scree, where her father disappeared when Lena was a girl. This place is inhabited by the so-called Peculiars. Accompanied by her new allies and traveling in a fantastic invention, Lena will make new friendships, understand her fears and know herself.
About the Book:
This book has a beautiful cover, which shows a woman with wings. In the background, we can observe a mechanic aerial contraption. This woman... she could fly, probably she wants to, but her wings look damage/broken and at the back of the photo we see those who cannot fly and are doing anything to achieve it. This image caught my interest immediately. The cover can be seen at the book's author page, Maureen Doyle McQuerry.
The mood and atmosphere created in the story reminds me of the old west. I found interesting the technological elements added in the story through the inventions using steam. This theme is not the focus of the story, but offers something different. The atmosphere in the story is enhanced by the description of the characters. Their costumes, as are described in the story, exemplify this.
Are observed several ideas of relevance:
Being different is seen in a negative way, people are discriminated against- The novel presents a group (the Peculiars) discriminated for being different. These people are identified and are described as soulless, because they exhibit distinctive physical features such as wings. These creatures are enslaved and sent to live in Scree and are excluded from the rest of society.
Technology- Also, it is discussed the issue of alternative energy with the inclusion of technology that uses steam. Certainly, I expected it for been a steampunk novel, to give greater importance to this concept.
In general, I recommend reading this book to lovers of steampunk and adventures. This is the first novel of this genre that I read, and probably I will include some others in my reading in the future.
Do I think about the characters?
My favorite is Jimson. He is logical, good friend and loyal. He is a smart guy and proofs to be important for the development of the story. Also, he is a nice guy.
Although interesting and entertaining, the story didn't grabbed my complete attention. I consider that the steampunk element didn't shine enough on this book. The story offered an open ending. I wish the ending would have been more fulfilling for Lena as a character.I wanted to know the characters better. To me Mr. Beasley was a interesting character, I wish he would have been more active and more developed, so I could understand his motivations more.
If the author decides to continue Lena's journey, I definitively would look for that second book.”
“In compliance with FTC guidelines, I received this book from Netgalley.com
This turned out to be a really fantastic book! At first I wasn't quite sure how to react to it, it's rather odd little mix up when you first start out. The though of a steampunk type era and as well as the addition to people called Peculiars made me kind of hesitant, it's not a genre I read often though that really needs to change.
The writing is utterly Victorian, or so I feel, and it has a crisp and clean feel about it. I thought that the writing style really gave a unique characterization to everything and helped add a depth and voice to to the characters and the world surrounding them. The steampunk aspects are actually more of a pre-steampunk era, as things are not quite there yet but the advancements are clearly being made. It gives you something that a novel set in the full swing of steampunk doesn't, it makes the very idea of possibilities seem so endless and fresh. Instead of a book where everything is already set up and you simply come to terms with it, you get to learn about it before everything is set in stone just like the main character. It's not a huge part of the story but it's certainly a very present aspect and it makes the experience unique. The concept of Peculiars is also a really unique idea to through into the delightful mix. As the summary above says and the cover attests to, the Peculiars are very...well Peculiar. I loved how their odd little traits are examined and how once again Darwin is introduced to "help" explain things. The one thing about the world that I didn't quite like was the fact that you don't quite know where you are. At first I thought it was something entirely made up, after all I know of no place ever called Scree, but as you continue reading you realize that it is in fact set in our very own world. It's not hard to believe, however I wish it would have been explained more throughly as it's a bit confusing to place where this place is exactly.
The characters are pretty endearing and unique as well. Lena is fairly strong willed and has a good head on her shoulders, even if at times she's a tad too headstrong but that is such a refreshing change to all of the mold-able female main characters. I truly felt for her in her situation and I really wanted her to find her place. Her character does come of slightly flawed at times though. There isn't much personal growth or development for her as the story progresses and at times she seems to become increasingly trusting all of the sudden. Jimson is a darling character and was really enjoyable to read about. He has such a passion for life that's hard to not to like him, at times his enthusiasm for learning things seems to be almost child-like. The other characters in this are also enjoyable even if they don't end up as fleshed out as one would hope, I would love to know more about Mr. Beasly personality-wise.
Overall it's a really interesting book and the plot is one that really piques curiosity, added to the fact that it's a pretty light read it makes for a great relaxing read.”